#21: Irina Ratushinskaya 1998

Language of Hope, September 29, 2017

Russian poet Irina Ratushinskaya left an extraordinary legacy in her poetry, her courage, and her lively humor. Arrested and sent to a forced labor camp 1983, she was eventually released and came to the West. Just before returning to her Russian homeland after many years away, she spoke at the 1998 Festival. This episode gathers her remarks and readings from several sessions, including a chapel service in which she reflected on following God with nothing at all, giving up hatred, and forgiving enemies. Ratushinskaya embodies and celebrates poetry’s remarkable resilience as an art form that can be made without any materials and secreted away in the minds of friends. Poetry, though “of no use,” lifts us up and feels like flying. The episode includes a conversation with host Lisa Ann Cockrel and writer Lil Copan, introductory remarks from the original sessions by the late scholar Ed Ericson, and readings of English translations of Ratushinskaya’s poetry by Calvin English professors and poets Lew Klatt and Jane Zwart.


RESOURCES

  • Irina Ratushinskaya,
      • Grey is the Color of Hope
      • Dance With a Shadow
      • Beyond the Limit

Poems Read:

  • Irina Ratushinskaya, 
    • “Some people's dreams pay all their bills”
    • “I still think I see the city where no one lives”
    • “If you can't sleep, count up to a hundred”
    • “Everything repeats itself in life”
    • “We are branded with Russia by a white-hot blizzard”
    • “Drawing near, September has hung the stars lower”

  • TRANSCRIPT

Intro

Ed Ericson: Before I introduce Irina, perhaps I could get this much audience participation: will you please join me in a five-syllable chant, which you will say twice, and you will say: "Ra-tu-SHIN-skay-ah." Please, together, "Ra-tu-SHIN-skay-ah." One more time: "Ra-tu-SHIN-skay-ah." There you go, now I will introduce my friend.  

[music]

Lisa Ann Cockrel (host): You just heard the late Ed Ericson introducing Russian poet Irina Ratushinskaya, and this is Rewrite Radio, the podcast from the Festival of Faith & Writing. I’m Lisa Ann Cockrel, the Director of the Festival, and I’ll be your host.  

Today, we have something a little different in store for you. Russian poet, author and activist Irina Ratushinskaya passed away earlier this summer, and as we dug into the Festival archives, we knew we wanted to celebrate her life and work with a special episode. Irina spoke at the 1998 Festival of Faith & Writing ten years after her release from a Russian prison camp, and we’ve pulled together several different recordings from that weekend.

Before we play that tape, Professor Ericson is going to help me provide a bit more background on this amazing poet, her life and work.

[music]

Ed: Irina served time in the Gulag Archipelago. Her crimes, the first one listed, and I quote, was, "authorship of poetry." Another was authorship of, and I quote again, "documents in defense of human rights."

Lisa: Irina was recruited by the KGB to serve as a spy, and turned them down. She began writing poetry in earnest in her 20’s after she was fired from her job as a teacher for refusing to discriminate against Jewish students. She took up human rights work with her husband, a physicist and fellow activist, and was sentenced to forced labor in a camp in 1983 shortly after her 29th birthday.

[music]

Ed: Irina has written several volumes of poetry, two books of memoirs, and a novel. When in prison she wrote with a matchstick on bars of soap, memorized the words, and washed the evidence down the drain.

Lisa: During her nearly four years in the labor camp, she managed to smuggle out some 250 of her poems, writing them out on 4-centimeter wide cigarette paper. Her husband, who had lost his job at this point, had them published in the West. Peace talks between Reagan and Gorbechev in the late ‘80s led to her release and she was allowed to go with her husband to London to seek medical treatment.

In spite of Irina’s years in the labor camp, the buoyancy of her spirit was evident during her time with us at the 1998 Festival of Faith & Writing. In addition to her deeply rooted, abiding sense of humor, her liveliness, and the fullness of her character, Irina’s words about the function of poetry as the last form of resistance in times of oppression, and its purpose in times of plenty, when people are grasping for something beyond the material, still seem timely.

I think you’ll see what I mean about her sense of humor in this short clip on why she never reads her poems in any other language than her native Russian.

[music]

Irina: [00:07:59] The idea that I shouldn't, came from America, so you must not complain. [laughter] It was in late 60s or early 70s, I don't remember, I was still a schoolgirl, when one of American well-known singers, now I don't remember his name, came to Moscow to sing in the biggest festival hall in Moscow. It was broadcasted by TV, and all the youngsters were in front of TVs.

He was singing, everyone was all excited, and in the end he decided to sing a Russian folk song in Russian. It was a very good old song about love, about death, and he sang it with such feeling, with heavy American accent, [laughter] we screamed with laughter in front of TV, [laughter] and so did the audience in the festival hall like would see it, [laughter] and since then I decided I shouldn't read my poems in any foreign languages. [laughter]

[music ends]

Conversation

Lisa: [00:04:59] Before we listen to more of Irina’s reflections and poetry, I want to introduce Lil Copan, an acquisitions editor at Eerdman’s publishing. Lil is a longtime Festival participant, both as a speaker and an attendee, and she's also a writer. Her own next book, a novel titled Little Hours, comes in February 2018. And she remembers being in the audience and listening to Irina during the 1998 Festival.

[music]

Lisa: Well, thanks so much for joining me here today Lil. Often I ask people, "Where did I find you today?” And it's a little unusual today because you're actually here in my office.

Lil Copan: I'm so glad to be in your office, especially after circuitous trips down the hallways to find it--

Lisa: Exactly. We're in a round building, so you had to find [emphasizing] me today. Thank you. Well, today's episode of Rewrite Radio is also a little different because we're going to be reading together recordings from multiple sessions from the 1998 Festival of Faith & Writing, featuring the poet Irina Ratushinskaya-- or, how would you pronounce it? School me on how to pronounce her name.

Lil: I have heard two pronunciations. One is "Ra-tu-SHIN-skay-ah" and one is "Ra-tu-shin-SKAY-ah."

Lisa: And you grew up in a Russian-speaking household so we'll defer to your pronunciation there. [laughing]

You also are the one who kind of alerted me to this recording from an email. Tell me about your relationship with Ratushinskaya's recordings from the Festival.

Lil: Well, she was new to me at that time; I had not heard of her--

Lisa: --At the 1998 Festival.

Lil: --Yes, I think it was one of my first Festivals and if I left with one thing, it was the tapes of those sessions. And I just found that there was somebody who was talking about a really profoundly dark period of history, and some of it that continued-- ongoing in the labor camps and gulags for her writing poetry. So I think part of the draw was her own story about being in a labor camp and learning what it is to love one's enemies. And I-- that made a profound impact on me. And the other was-- just the way that she talked about poetry... the sort of depth of not only its meaning, but how embodied poetry is in her that I hadn't seen in any American poets which seemed very from the neck up, you know, very sort of heady but not full in that way. And I think she knew something about poetry and could articulate that that I hadn't heard anywhere else.

Lisa: She was here in 1998 and this was after spending-- I guess she'd been in the West about ten years, so she was able to-- when she left the gulag she was allowed to go for medical treatment to London and then her citizenship had been revoked while-- her Soviet citizenship-- while she was in London, and so kind of was in exile-- was in exile for the West for about ten years, and then she was here at Calvin in 1998 just as she was about to return and talks about this in some of her sessions, which will probably come out-- where she doesn't quite know what to expect next, but she's eager to return to her homeland which she loves-- which is really interesting.

Lil: Yeah, I think she thought that you can't keep the sort of soul of a-- I mean, I think she called herself a Russian poet-- of a Russian poet without being in the land from which the poetry sort of arose. And that I think her ties to language and poetry-- I mean, I think she never had a extreme comfort with English, even though she is incredibly articulate.

Lisa: Indeed. Well, let's listen to this poem that Irina reads that I really loved-- of course, Irina doesn't read an English translation, so we had Jane Zwart come into the studio and read the poem. But Irina sets it up, she gives a little bit of context. Let's listen in.

Irina: It's very special for me. Yesterday I said that poetry is of no use whatsoever, that's why I love it. But this poem is an exception. It was written in the labor camp about how I wanted a cherry-red dress and it was smuggled out and published in the West-- translated-- before I was released. When I came to England, people-- having read this poem-- started giving me cherry-red dresses-- [laughter] --in all sizes. [laughter] It was more than a half dozen of them; even since I ballooned two sizes up I still can wear some of them. [laughter] So here, wow, was no use. [laughter]

Jane Zwart: [00:10:21]

“Some people's dreams pay all their bills”

Some people's dreams pay all their bills,

While others' gild an empty shell...

But mine go whimpering about a velvet dress

Cherry-red and sumptuous as sin.

O, inaccessible! Not of our world!

Nowhere to get you, or to put you on…

But how I want you!

Against all reason's reproaches -

There, in the very narrows of the heart's

Recesses - flourishes the poison

Of heavy folds, and obscure embroidery...

The childish, flouted right

To beauty! Not bread, not domicile -

But unbleached, royal lace,

Enspiralled rings, sly ribbons - but no!

My day is like a donkey, bridled, laden,

My night deserted, like the prison light.

But in my soul - it's no good! I am guilty! -

I keep on sewing it, and in my mind I make

The thousandth stitch, as I do up my anorak

And try on my tarpaulin boots.

[April 1983]

Irina: [00:11:51] In Russian it sounds like that:

[Russian original]

Lisa: I just love that image of her in this gray labor camp, longing for a bright red dress. And in some ways it felt to me as we were-- actually, to our whole staff as we were prepping this episode-- as a kind of metaphor for poetry itself. And the ways in which she was reaching out for the kind of beauty of language in the midst of a kind of pummeling experience that some might argue, "Why poetry at all in this moment? Why that?"

Lil: I think for her, poetry is hope. I mean, gray may be the color of hope, but I think poetry is the language of hope that she continues in. The ways that she talks about everything --from forgiveness to life in prison-- carries a really-- a profound, not a denigrating humor but this sort of really-- a humor that I haven't seen in this country. And she has written sitcom, which I did not know--

Lisa: Yes, yes! She actually went back after this session-- you know, went back and spent many years writing the Russian version of "The Nanny." And I think that sense of humor, and even that ability to- to dwell in the kind of lighthearted, even superficially humorous part of life, and to take it seriously and to give it her attention speaks to a real fullness of spirit and character, which is all part of why we were so excited to present this, even though, you know, her memoir is Grey is the Color of Hope you know, and her poetry can be quite compact and bleak, you might say, and yet there's a real-- there's a liveliness to it and to her presentation that is-- we've just all, here, in the office, kind of fallen for her. [laughs]

Lil: And I have-- to return to that tape-- I mean, obviously, I've-- when I purchase my next car, I thought, I have to have something that still has a tape player in it, because I had these tapes, and the last one of them just broke two weeks ago because I was listening to it over and over--

Lisa: That's kind of amazing that here in 2017 you're looking for a car with a tape player so that you can listen to tapes for the 1998 Festival of Faith & Writing. [laughter] Well, thanks for joining me today in the office-- in the studios-- [laughs]

[music]

Lil: Oh, it's so wonderful.

Readings

[music]

Lisa: [00:15:57] Next you’ll hear Irina read her own work and discuss poetry more broadly. English translations are read by Jane Zwart who you’ve already heard, and Lew Klatt, both of whom are professors of English at Calvin College and are distinguished poets in their own rights. And now, Irina Ratushinskaya at the 1998 Festival of Faith & Writing.

Irina: In the labor camp I used to pray, "Thanks God, I am not a sculptor," otherwise they would confiscate all my works and break them down. You know, any occupation of the totalitarian regime could control film producers because they need TV channels, studios, actors, they work as a team. They could destroy pictures, they could destroy musical instruments, or confiscate them, but one doesn't need anything for writing poetry. Not even a pen and a pencil. So many people are able to compose their poems in their mind and only after they have reached their computers, if they have any.

So in the hard time, when the hard time comes, poets-- poetry always goes on the surface. That's why it was so important in the war time both in England and in Russia, and I think in this country because it gives a concentration of human emotions and it is very close to the values which cannot be taken away because they cannot be taken, they cannot be touched, they are not material. Poetry is not connected with material world at all, there are no ways how to stop spreading poetry around, that's why I feel very optimistic about the future of poetry whatever may come.

[music]

The next poem would give you some idea of what used to be religious propaganda in the former Soviet Union, because [expertise?] during my interrogation has proven that it is a criminal poem because it is about God.



Jane: [00:18:45]

“I still think I see the city where no one lives”

I still think I see the city where no one lives,

Where the pinkies of the weeds

have pushed apart the order of the concrete,

And in the debris of the church still young the Madonna

Like a mermaid over a slipper,

yet waits for Lady Day.

If not today, then tomorrow: after all it is summer now forever,

And the trees won't lose the children,

and they won't feel cold for clothes.

The dragonflies are triumphant,

the water in the rails has rusted,

Stars that have not been seen before are showing through.

And they're neither to be snatched away by the school bell

Nor wiped out by December:

Wolf evening and midday of wormwood --

Be consoled, Madonna!

From the grass to the beasts --

none of us will ever die

We shall be with you.

This city is already outside the law.

Irina: [00:20:05] [Russian original]

Irina: There is one thing which is good about labor camp, if anything. It is the only place from where a person can write a [loving?] poem to one's husband of wife, which never happens under other circumstances. [laughter] At least I never did. But this one was written to my husband as a letter.

Lew Klatt: [00:21:40]

“If you can't sleep, count up to a hundred”

If you can't sleep -- count up to a hundred,

And drive these thoughts away.

I know: I can't be reached now

and can't be helped in any way.

So don't tear, as you burn in a night fever,

The white bandage of your last sleep!

Perhaps I will soon come back again --

And then you will recognize me.

I’ll be a child or a bush --

With hands more tender there are none,

And you must invent a story for me

With a happy ending -- and true.

I will be grass or sand --

So I’ll be warmer to embrace,

But if I'm a hungry dog --

You must feed me.

Like a gypsy woman I'll catch at your sleeve,

Or hurl myself at your window like a bird --

But don't chase me away when you recognize me

For I'll only have come -- to take a look.

And one day in snow, or perhaps in rain

You'll come across a frozen kitten --

And again it will be me.

And you will be granted the power to save

Anyone you like, in whatever trouble.

But by that time I will be everywhere,

Everywhere on your path.

Irina: [00:23:14] [Russian original]

[music]

Irina: You know, we're coming now to the times of wild, spiritual search both in the West and in Russia. People are interested in supernatural phenomena, people do feel that our materialistic world is not that materialistic and the most important and the most exciting things we cannot touch, we cannot measure. And I think poetry, as well as music, advocate people's ability to enter those other worlds we're longing for since we're born. People don't simply read or listen, they, while reading or listening they do their creative part this way there are no two people who, which would understand or feel the same piece of music in the same way and the same is true about poetry. It is clear especially when a poem is put on music later, well after it was written because I know examples of the same poem which was put into music in five, six absolutely different ways and as a result we had five or six absolutely different emotionally different songs. Well, the only thing I can add is that the highest ambition of the Russian poet is to write a poem which would be good enough to be put into music, which would be good enough to become a song. And if this poem because a folk song, which stays for generations usually people forget the name of author and that's the highest ambition of any Russian poet, to be forgotten.

Irina: The next two poems we're going to read will give you perhaps some idea why I'm now moving back to Russia to live there after all what I have there. The fist poem was written in the day I left my city in Russia.



Jane: [00:27:30]

“Everything repeats itself in life”

Everything repeats itself in life

Everything repeats itself

Again, the night road and the hand holding mine

Everything changes in the world

Everything changes

If you live a while longer, you'll see that the clock has stopped

And the intricate black fingers are still

And the sum of scars and insults fades from the heart

And the stepmother stands silent by her cross

And you enter the final tunnel, knowing who it is that waits

In the meantime, the night road and the ticking up of numbers

And the road, unmeasured by us, gathers in the miles

And my virgin midnight star stands high and says,

"When you say goodbye, take care you don't forget me"

Irina: [00:28:43] [Russian original]



Lew: [00:29:46]

“We are branded with Russia by a white-hot blizzard”

We are branded with Russia by a white-hot blizzard,

By the rhetoric of dark funnels, of pits made of snow

Go away, eye-less woman, go away

Only, how are we to leave each other in infinite whirling

In our kinship in conflict with her

And when at last you break loose from the oppressive tenderness of her despotic embraces

In which to fall asleep is to do so forever,

Your head swims, as if in your first childish drag at a cigarette

And your lungs are torn to shreds like a cheap envelope

And then, as you wait for everything that has emerged alive from her unpeopled cold

To recover from the narcosis, to know that the angels of Russia freeze to death towards morning

Like sparrows in the frost falling from their wires into the snow

Irina: [00:31:05] [Russian original]

Irina: Osip Mandelstam wrote that poetry writing is like playing ball with one's father. It is like you throw a ball, "Look God, what can I do," and he throws you the ball back, and it is like that. At least it was like that for him, I have a different experience because I grew up in-- under the circumstances when the Bibles were not available. I read Bible for the first time when I was 23. I was not taught how to pray, but I believed in God since I was 9, and actually my beginning of poetry writing was something like a search. I didn't know how to pray, and I would say that my first poems were, well, not very polite. It was not like, they were not like prayers, they were rather like quarrelling with God, asking endless questions. But the funny thing was that after asking those questions somehow the answer came. I never heard voices of anything, but I do remember, I even wrote a poem about this when I was 12, why on earth I was sent to this time, to this country, to this family if I clearly feel I don't belong here, what was God's purpose? The answer I heard, well, somewhere inside my mind, was, "Are you sure that you did not agree from the beginning to go there?" And it came like pieces of puzzle. Yes, I understood, of course, it was my love to challenges. Where on earth could I be sent? Of course there, and since then I felt my belonging to Russia. Yes, it was my choice, but perhaps I wouldn't feel it that clearly if I wouldn't write this poem full of lamentation, I would say.

….

Quite honestly, I never think when I write. I never think of poetry purpose at all. I mean, after, I can talk about it, but when I read some other people's poem, it is like just when we  were growing up, we all used to fly in our sleep. Do you remember the sensation? And sometimes I have a feeling that with reading or writing poetry we are trying to do the same, we're trying to fly. And it is, it is of no use, of no purpose just because we want to do it. Later when the first sensation of this flying, I don't know, each good poem I come across virtually lifts me up and I keep this flying feeling each time I read this poem. After this, we can, after the sensation is gone, we can talk sensibly, and after this we can think of purpose of possible readers, of publishing, or importance for the society and so on and so on. But I would say honestly it is for me, it is only the side effects comparing with this flying sensation. That's why, perhaps I sound rude, but I keep hearing from the editors from other writers that you must think of your readers, of your possible buyers of your books. I never do. When I write a poem, I don't think of reader. I think only about whom I throw the ball, and it is play. It is of no purpose. That's what I like about poetry. Of no use whatsoever. [laughter]

[music]

Irina: And the last one actually require no comments; it's about happiness, which I cannot find still.

Lew: [00:37:41]

“Drawing near, September has hung the stars lower”

Drawing near, September has hung the stars lower --

And in gales fish splash to them with their fins.

At night the callous waves grind stone,

And the houses of the shores hide and silently listen.

A petal of space has curled up and lain down with the bay

The hills have risen like dogs with quietly bristling hides.

A man sits drawing shapes in the sand.

In a couple of thousand years he'll find out how to be happy.

Irina: [00:38:38] [Russian original]

Irina: Thank you.

[applause, music]

Chapel Session

Lisa: [00:39:31] Irina also spoke to undergraduates in a Calvin College chapel during the 1998 Festival. Here she shares what she learned about her faith during her experience in prison, especially as it relates to guarding against bitterness, loving one’s enemies, and coming together with people who harbor different religious convictions.

[music, applause]

Irina: Dear friends, I feel really privileged and honored to be this morning with you. It is not everyday that an especially dangerous state criminal is asked to speak in the church. [laughter] And I would like to share with you some experiences which people, thank God, don't have in their normal life.

Perhaps you remember that one of the most difficult Christ's suggestions was "Leave everything and follow me." In everyday life, we never think of doing it. Of leaving everything behind and follow God without anything at all.

So I would like to tell you my first discovery which I make an hour, about an hour after I was arrested. Because arrest in the Soviet Union really meant that the person was completely isolated, roped off anything, including one's toothbrush, and it was the first time in my life when I owned anything-- owned nothing and didn't know what would happen to me tomorrow. And instead of panic or shock or whatever-- whichever one might expect, the first sensation was the deep feeling of security.

In that moment, I was absolutely sure that God was with me, He was looking after me, and that was the moment when I discovered, not theoretically, but deep in my soul that other humans cannot do anything wrong to me until I cooperate. Of course, I thought maybe they would kill me tomorrow. Big deal, it means that tomorrow I will be in heaven. Not, not only me but all my friends had this feeling, everyone who was with me in the labor camp, we used to call this feeling the, a hand on the shoulder. And this feeling was with us throughout all those years of the labor camp.

The second lesson all of us political prisoners had to learn in the labor camp was about hatred. Again, theoretically, we all know that we are not supposed to hate, we are supposed to love our enemies, we are supposed to pray for them. How on earth it is possible to do it?

But in the labor camp, in the KGB prison, life is organized in such a way that if a person allows herself or himself to hate, it means this person would be destroyed in several weeks. There are no sources of positive emotions. There are plenty of reasons to hate, to feel bitterness, because they do torture people, they do humiliate people, and if one allows oneself to hate, in several weeks this person would be burnt from inside. It starts with lack of sleep, one cannot sleep.

One feels this burning hate, and in several days, people become insane if they don't know how to cope with this feeling. I've seen such cases and now I'm sure that everyone who went through the labor camp and came out mentally in one piece did learn how to give up hatred.

Then, in the labor camp, I learned what does it mean to pray for my executioners. Sometimes in the West I've heard such theories that, you know, people say, "You Russians are slaves by nature, and the more you are bitten the more you ensure that you establish special relationship with your executioners," and so on. Of course, it is all nonsense, but about the special relationship with the executioners, I think it is true. I think under the serious pressure people can understand what does it mean to take care of their enemies.

[00:45:33] Before the church's different denominations first split in fourth century, one of the fathers of the church, which was in one piece then, Gregory Nyssen wrote that God wants to save everyone, and how it is possible if the day of the last judgment the justice is promised, not mercy, justice. If we're taught to love everyone, how can we be happy there in God's heaven knowing that not everyone is saved. And his idea was that, yes, God will introduce justice in the day of last judgment. But we humans would be supposed to show mercy. And those who suffered would have rights to step forward and to say, "God, following your example, following your commandments, in your name I can say I did suffer from this particular person. I forgive him, and now you cannot condemn him. He is under my wing because I forgive him."

And if everyone would forgive everyone in that day, perhaps everyone would be saved. This teaching is still in tradition of our Russian Orthodox Church, and I think it makes more or less clear why dealing with our enemies, sometimes fighting them, sometimes ruining their careers, I ruined plenty because I never took part in the interrogation, I never give any answers to the KGB questions so they were punished repeatedly for not being successful, and so did all my friends. Yes, we ruined their careers, but in the same time, just sitting during this boring interrogation, not opening our mouth, what could we do except for praying for those blinded, perhaps devil-possessed people who didn't know, actually they didn't know what they were doing. And under this pressure, in such situation, yes I can testify every human, each human being would be able to find inner resources to pray for one's enemies if those enemies are real, not imaginary.

And the third lesson I've learned in the labor camp was how people of different faith could cope together. Because there were different denomination among political prisoners, there was Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Russian Orthodox, and non-believers in our little labor camp for especially dangerous state criminals. And we had to avoid somehow religious wars, you know, we had to support each other other. So our unwritten rule was no arguments. It must be something higher that-- than our understanding about God. And let's be directed by this real God's existence, not by our understanding of it. As a result, avoiding all contradicting each other in religious points, we celebrated Christmas twice, and Easter twice, and all religious holidays of various congregations, and I would say we had more holidays than any other family.

[00:50:07] Usually with a slice of bread and mug of water or, or even without, but we did feel the joy and warmth and we could pray together and even those who were non-believers then, years later, became converted. One of my friends-- an Estonian lady who became a politician after Estonia got her independence, she became a minister in Estonia-- then in the labor camp she was a nonbeliever. She said, "I don't know about God, I don't care." And looking at her, at her cheerfulness, at her always being ready to help, I thought I wish all Christians would behave like her.

Two years ago she was converted. God knows when and how to find [this so?]. Now she's a Catholic nun, and that's the most interesting result of being under the pressure because now I still keep in touch with my friends. We all survived and it was a miracle itself. Now I can say that everyone [inaudible], does believe in Jesus Christ now. We still belong to different denomination. We still feel like relatives. And we still remember this lesson: if we leave everything and follow the Christ-calling, all fears would disappear. Nothing wrong would ever happen with the person. And it gives us strength to do it again and again in different situation.

For instance, now I am going back to Russia to live there. I don't know what on earth to expect now in my country. But it gives us strength, I think, to the moment when we'll hear this calling for the last time: "Leave everything and come to Me." And this last time would not be death. It would be not total destruction. It would be eternal love, God's glory, and His kingdom. Thank you.

[applause]

Outro

[music]

Lisa: [00:53:02] Many thanks to Lil Copan. You can follow her on Twitter @LilCopan. Many thanks also to Jane Zwart, co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing, and Lew Klatt, former Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, for lending us their voices.

We are also grateful to the late Calvin College English professor emeritus Ed Ericson, whose voice you heard at the very beginning of this episode, and whose advocacy played a big part in bringing Irina Ratushinskaya to the Festival. He was a lover of literature, master teacher, and consummate storyteller and he also passed away earlier in 2017. He is missed.

And finally, we’re grateful to Irina. Her courage and humor in the face of abject oppression are tangible reminders of the sustaining power and relevance of poetry.

[music]

Rewrite Radio is recorded at the Festival of Faith & Writing on the campus of Calvin College and is a production of the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Today's episode was produced by Jon Brown, Amanda Smartt, and yours truly. Our team includes Sarah Bass, Peter Ford, Gwenyth Findlay, Don Hettinga, Jennifer Holberg, Scott Hoezee, Bob Hudson, Lew Klatt, Debra Rienstra, Sarah Turnage, Chloe Selles, Isabelle Selles, Deborah Visser, and Jane Zwart.

You can learn more about the Festival of Faith & Writing at festival.calvin.edu and if you're into the social media, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you like what we're doing here on Rewrite Radio, please leave us a review on iTunes. It helps other people discover the show, and we are so grateful.

Also, we've got 26 years of Festival recordings to explore here on Rewrite Radio. And if you've been to some of these Festivals and have a favorite session or two that you are especially excited to hear on this podcast, just shoot me an email at ffw@calvin.edu and tell me about them. Just put "Rewrite Radio” in the subject line.

Thanks for listening to Rewrite Radio. I'm Lisa Ann Cockrel, back soon with more from the Festival of Faith & Writing.